Limited Means, Limited Options
Federal Policy

Limited Means, Limited Options

College Remains Unaffordable for Many Americans

Posted: March 21, 2017
Author(s): Alain Poutré, Jamey Rorison, and Mamie Voight
Organization(s): Institute for Higher Education Policy

This paper offers five recommendations to address issues of affordability that negatively affect college access and completion:

  • Federal policymakers should protect and strengthen the Pell Grant.
  • States should strengthen direct investment in public colleges and need-based aid programs.
  • Colleges should manage institutional costs to concentrate expenditures on students.
  • Colleges with wealth at their disposal—either in the form of large endowments or company profits—should keep prices low for needy students.
  • Congress should pass legislation to improve consumer information and transparency, giving students the information they need to make affordable choices.

A report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy shows that college affordability varies dramatically between students with different family incomes, enabling wealthy students to attend essentially any college while effectively shutting out many of their peers. The study offers five recommendations for federal, state, and institutional policymakers to level the playing field and jointly tackle the affordability issue together.